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Hamlin wins pole for Coca-Cola 600

by Pete McCole
Thursday, May 23, 2013

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Denny Hamlin
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
Denny Hamlin is out to prove he’s not giving up on making the Chase for the Sprint Cup, looking to score some victories to qualify for a wild card spot in the 12-driver Chase field.

Hamlin took a big step toward his goal by winning the pole for Sunday’s Coca Cola 600 during Thursday night’s qualifying session at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Hamlin was one of nine drivers to shatter the track record, posting a jaw dropping top speed of 195.624 mph in the no. 11 Toyota Camry – nearly two mph over the previous track record of 193.708 mph set by Greg Biffle last October –to knock Kurt Busch off the top for his 14th-career Coors Light Pole Award.

“We just ran real fast,” said Hamlin. “We knew we had to improve from last week. We didn’t improve the way we wanted. All these guys here sucked up and made a helluva run.

“I knew I had to try and do everything I could, but the way our car drove I didn’t think it was that fast when I was actually making the lap. I just sat in turn one with 10 cars to go and just kind of closed my eyes and listened to each car go by and listened to what they were doing with their throttle and look at the board and see where they ended up. I took all that information and kind of put together what I thought it was going to take to run the fastest lap. We put it all together and it’s hard work and it pays off -- all that’s good.”

Kurt Busch held the second position with a speed of 195.221 mph, followed by Matt Kenseth (195.094), Mark Martin (194.595) and Clint Bowyer (194.503).

Hamlin’s pole was his first since topping qualifying for at Auto Club Speedway in March, a race that ended in a last-lap crash which resulted in a back injury that kept Hamlin out for four races and knocked him as far back as 31st in points.

Although Hamlin has little chance of making the top 10 in points to automatically qualify for the Chase, he still has an outside shot of capturing a wild card spot, which goes to two non top-10 drivers in the top 20 in points with the most wins.

“I think ultimately getting the big trophy on Sunday is the validation that you’re truly back,” said Hamlin. “For me, it’s going to take some wins and some really good consistency throughout these summer months to put ourselves in position to have a chance at a championship. That’s what we’re here for.

“Even these small victories though give me that confidence that I’m still capable, and I’m still able to do the job at 100 percent like I should be. Any kind of confidence booster for me -- it’s always a plus on Sunday.”

Kurt Busch’s outside-pole winning effort was his second-straight front-row starting spot, looking to turn things around for his team which has had only four top-10 starts this season.

“It was an extremely fast car,” said Busch. “Those guys keep delivering pole-winning-type cars each and every week when we’ve been unloading. I just didn’t quite hit my mark exactly right in (Turns) 3 & 4, and I knew that we might get beat by somebody. I was just hoping we might get a gift. But Denny Hamlin laid it down.

“I’m just leaning on the team. And they keep building better and better cars. To have that confidence in them, just like we unloaded today and ran a ridiculous lap time, we ran a 28.20 and the other guys are running 28.50’s. When you have that confidence to lay the right pedal down and it sticks, it’s a great feeling.”

Kasey Kahne, Greg Biffle, Kyle Busch, Jamie McMurray and Ryan Newman rounded out the top ten qualifiers. Mike Bliss was the only driver to fail to qualify for Sunday’s race.

Results

Pos Driver Car Make Sponsor Speed Time Behind
1 Denny Hamlin 11 Toyota FedEx Office 195.624 27.604 Leader
2 Kurt Busch 78 Chevrolet Furniture Row Racing-Serta 195.221 27.661 -0.057
3 Matt Kenseth 20 Toyota The Home Depot / Husky 195.094 27.679 -0.075
4 Mark Martin 55 Toyota Aaron's Dream Machine 194.595 27.750 -0.146
5 Clint Bowyer 15 Toyota 5-Hour Energy 194.503 27.763 -0.159
6 Kasey Kahne 5 Chevrolet Time Warner Cable 194.349 27.785 -0.181
7 Greg Biffle 16 Ford Fastenal 194.238 27.801 -0.197
8 Kyle Busch 18 Toyota M&M's Red-White-Blue M-Prove America 193.952 27.842 -0.238
9 Jamie McMurray 1 Chevrolet Bad Boy Buggies 193.694 27.879 -0.275
10 Ryan Newman 39 Chevrolet Quicken Loans 193.639 27.887 -0.283
11 Dale Earnhardt Jr 88 Chevrolet National Guard 193.444 27.915 -0.311
12 Jimmie Johnson 48 Chevrolet Lowe's Patriotic 193.292 27.937 -0.333
13 Carl Edwards 99 Ford Fastenal 193.271 27.940 -0.336
14 Jeff Gordon 24 Chevrolet Drive To End Hunger 192.961 27.985 -0.381
15 Kevin Harvick 29 Chevrolet Budweiser Folds of Honor 192.520 28.049 -0.445
16 Juan Pablo Montoya 42 Chevrolet Target 192.287 28.083 -0.479
17 Martin Truex Jr 56 Toyota NAPA Auto Parts 192.191 28.097 -0.493
18 Aric Almirola 43 Ford USAF 192.130 28.106 -0.502
19 Marcos Ambrose 9 Ford DeWalt 192.123 28.107 -0.503
20 Brad Keselowski 2 Ford Miller Lite 191.884 28.142 -0.538
21 Casey Mears 13 Ford GEICO 191.884 28.142 -0.538
22 Paul Menard 27 Chevrolet Menards / Serta 191.727 28.165 -0.561
23 J.J. Yeley 36 Chevrolet TBA 190.988 28.274 -0.670
24 Danica Patrick 10 Chevrolet GoDaddy.com 190.826 28.298 -0.694
25 Tony Stewart 14 Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / Mobil 1 190.792 28.303 -0.699
26 David Gilliland 38 Ford Long John Silver's 190.665 28.322 -0.718
27 Jeff Burton 31 Chevrolet Cheerios 190.490 28.348 -0.744
28 Travis Kvapil 93 Toyota Burger King / Dr. Pepper 190.416 28.359 -0.755
29 Trevor Bayne 21 Ford Motorcraft / Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center 190.409 28.360 -0.756
30 Ricky Stenhouse Jr 17 Ford Fastenal 190.241 28.385 -0.781
31 Joey Logano 22 Ford Pennzoil 190.047 28.414 -0.810
32 Michael McDowell 98 Ford Phil Parsons Racing 189.967 28.426 -0.822
33 Dave Blaney 7 Chevrolet Sany 189.793 28.452 -0.848
34 Bobby Labonte 47 Toyota Bush's Grillin Beans 189.401 28.511 -0.907
35 David Ragan 34 Ford TBA 189.049 28.564 -0.960
36 Regan Smith 51 Chevrolet Phoenix Construction 188.725 28.613 -1.009
37 Scott Speed 95 Ford TBA 188.659 28.623 -1.019
38 David Reutimann 83 Toyota Burger King / Dr. Pepper 188.383 28.665 -1.061
39 David Stremme 30 Toyota Swan Energy 188.265 28.683 -1.079
40 Timmy Hill 32 Ford OXY Water 188.114 28.706 -1.102
41 Joe Nemechek 87 Toyota TBA 188.081 28.711 -1.107
42 Landon Cassill 33 Chevrolet Little JoesAutos.com 188.075 28.712 -1.108
43 Josh Wise 35 Ford MDS Transport 186.406 28.969 -1.365

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